Spoiler alert: the first paragraph of this story contains plot details about the end of Halo 4
Master Chief, the troubled hero of the Halo game series, has changed. The end of Halo 4 saw him battered and exhausted after his epic battle with The Didact. His best friend – the AI assistant Cortana – is dead, ravaged by a computerised sickness and then sacrificed to save humanity. We leave him contemplating his role in the UNSC, questioning everything he's fought for.
So when 343 Industries revealed the next Halo instalment on Friday, the obvious questions were, where does the series go next? In her Xbox Wire post, general manager Bonnie Ross spoke mostly about the technical aspects of bringing the game to Xbox One, the new engine, the ambition behind it.
So what of that ending? What does it tell us about the mood of the next title? Well, speaking to Ross as well as development director Frank O'Connor, we know that Halo 5 will take place soon after the previous game: "This is a continuation of the story from Halo 4," says O'Connor.
And Chief? "When we left him in Halo 4, he's in a really challenging position," says Ross. "He's questioning many things he once firmly believed were true. He's lost his best friend, he's questioning his past and his purpose, he's question who he is fighting for.
"For us this is a really interesting point. For the first time he's questioning everything he's done for the UNSC in the past. Just as with past titles, we're being really open about the fact that we want to tell this story over more than one game – this is about Master Chief's journey: it's about his past and his future."
The reference to the past is interesting. We know that 343 Industries has something planned for 2014 as well as 2015, and there have been consistent rumours – reiterated on Eurogamer in February – that a Halo 2 Anniversary edition may be in the works. Perhaps that will form a taster, a bridge to the events of Halo 5?
We've also seen the intriguing opening images from the new title, with Master Chief shrouded in a cloak on some desolate planetscape. Is the 343 development team going to give us a much darker, more personal adventure? "For us, it's super interesting," says Ross. " If you look at Halo 1, 2 and 3 and know the origin story and know the fiction well, Master Chief is our hero, he is you, and he is saving humanity... but its been at a huge cost to his life and there are things going on – you saw them in 4 – that make him question who is calling the shots. Is he doing the right thing? That's very interesting for us to explore."
We did try to get some more information on the structure of Halo 5. How much has 343 Industries looked across at the likes of Dark Souls, Titanfall and, of course, Destiny - how much as it considered elements like seamless multiplayer/single-player corssovers and cloud-based persistent worlds?
Ross laughs. "You're asking questions we just can't answer! We learned a ton from Halo 4, and having the abilities we have with Xbox One... it has opened up doors on things we could never have done before. We're very excited but we can't talk about any of it."
But this is a new beginning right? And a lot will ride on this title. Who knows where the PS4 vs Xbox One fight will be by then. Halo is, and always has been, a flagbearer for Xbox as a platform. "Any time you have a platform launch, it's an opportunity to take a step back and think more broadly," says Ross. "For us, it's almost a blank canvas. What are the stories we want to tell, how do we want to tell them, how do we use Halo to push the new platform?
"It's also a time to listen to our fans and take their feedback on what's important to them going forward. It's about how do we start and where do we go on Xbox One?"
Halo 5 is launched on Xbox One in autumn 2015
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